Prince Charles visit to Egypt raises controversy over award of honorary degree

Prince Charles stirred a small controversy in Egypt even before he arrived in the country Monday, as some Islamic scholars objected to plans to award him an honorary doctorate.

Al-Azhar University has decided to give Prince Charles the award in appreciation of his interest in Islam and his promotion of greater understanding of Islam in the West. The university in Cairo is part of the Al-Azhar complex, the foremost Islamic institution in the Sunni Muslim world.

Several top lecturers at the university say the heir to the British throne does not merit such a high award.

"All that Prince Charles did is to say that Islam is the most widespread religion in the world, and that is a reality, not a discovery by the prince," said Abdel Azim el-Mataani, a lecturer in Arabic literature. "That is not enough for him to receive such a reward from the prestigious Al-Azhar University."

But a director at the university, Abdel Sabur Shahin, supported the award, saying Prince Charles has adopted "positions close to Islam and Muslims, something no one else of his importance has done."

Shahin said the honorary doctorate was intended to "encourage him to befriend Muslims in Great Britain and to support Islam against the obstacles it faces in Europe."

The university plans to bestow the award on Tuesday when the prince will visit the institution and deliver a lecture on the relations between Islam and the West. The grand sheik of Al-Azhar, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the top Islamic cleric in Egypt, will attend the ceremony and make a speech, reports AP.


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